Mighty Meeke an easy winner

DUNGANNON’S Kris Meeke and his co-driver Gerry McVeigh from Cookstown took their McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRC to a clear win at last Saturday’s Orchard Motorsport backed Lurgan Park Rally.

They surged into the lead on stage 2, thereafter dominating the timesheets. Eleven times Lurgan Park winner Kenny McKinstry, who was driving John McGaffin’s Subaru this time, and indeed had John’s daughter Lesley co-driving, was a clear second at the end.

The race for third place was a lot closer. Garry Jennings (Subaru 555) just shaded first stage leader Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) for the final podium place.

At the finish, Kris Meeke, who has spent very little time in a rally car of late due to budget cutbacks, and indeed who had spent the previous week on his pushbike chasing after the Tour de France, said: “As well as a good challenge, it was a great day out. The biggest test was the changeable conditions. However the Mini WRC is a really precise car to drive, especially in the steering. The car was well fit for it.”

The opening stage was damp, green in places, a little greasy. Derek McGarrity was fastest from Kris Meeke with Kenny McKinstry third. Just 2s covered the three cars. Stage 2 was a repeat of the first one. Meeke was five seconds quicker than his first run to move into the lead. The former Intercontinental Rally Challenge Champion finished the stage with a broad grin on his face and said: “That was a lot better.” Indeed it was. From then on he never looked back, and showed all the flair that took him into the World Rally Championship arena.

Not so happy was Derek McGarrity. He made a small mistake on the stage, and on the following one, which saw him relegated to third and then to fourth following another slip-up. Kenny McKinstry on the other hand didn’t make a mistake all day in maintaining his second place. The Banbridge man said at the end: “We had a good day, but I was always going to be up against it with Kris Meeke. We were best of the rest, which wasn’t so bad.”

An unknown quantity before the start was just how well Garry Jennings would go in his old model Subaru 555. He bought this car earlier in the year for a bit of fun in the forests, and indeed has won a few rallies. The Fermanagh man drove well in the Park, but found the car simply outgunned in the fast sections. Still third place, ahead of Derek McGarrity’s Mini WRC, wasn’t such a bad result at all.

Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett, who had his 19-year-old son Paul co-driving, had a steady run to fifth.

Derek McGeehan, with Laurie Smith co-driving, rounded off the top six. Derek was driving the first right hand drive Mini WRC built by Prodrive. The car was delivered just two days before the rally, which left little time for ‘set-up’. The car performed immaculately. Indeed, it was quite something to see three Mini WRCs together in the beautiful environment of Craigavon Borough Council’s Lurgan Park. It certainly broke the Subaru dominance of recent years.

Outside the top six Kinallen’s Stuart Biggerstaff took 7th place in the family’s classic Metro 6R4. The car’s only hiccup was a broken power steering pipe in stage 4, as a result of clipping a bale. Former NI Rally Champion Stuart had Danny O’Carroll, a star of the TV show ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ co-driving. Not only did they have a good rally; they had a great laugh as well!

Norfolk’s Ray Brammer took 8th in his Subaru. Ray set some good times, despite a few small overshoots in the slippy conditions. John McKeown, despite feeling a bit rusty following a break from rallying, did well to bring his newly constructed Escort WRC into 9th. Alan Carmichael struggled a little on his first competitive run in a left hand drive Subaru and finished 10th.

Gilford’s Mark Doyle slipped out of the top ten when his Celica slithered into the scenery at one point. His brother nipped home for a couple of wet weather tyres, and with those fitted Mark battled back to 11th. Martin Teggart, who had his nephew Ben co-driving, finished the day 12th overall and won the best Escort accolade for his efforts. There was an enthralling battle in the FIA Historic category and seven times Circuit of Ireland winner, Jimmy McRae, came out tops in that one. McRae was driving Lisburn man Wesley Patterson’s Escort RS1800.

Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally Top Ten

1st (1) Kris Meeke/Gerry McVeigh (Mini WRC) 16.09.1

2nd (2) Kenny McKinstry/Lesley McGaffin (Impreza WRC) 16.39.4

3rd (4) Garry Jennings/Kerry McCarter (Impreza 555) 16.47.7

4th (3) Derek McGarrity/Kieron Graffin (Mini WRC) 16.49.6

5th (5) Kevin & Paul Barrett (Impreza WRC) 17.02.8

6th (6) Derek McGeehan/Laurie Smith (Mini WRC) 17.03.4

7th (7) Stuart Biggerstaff/Danny O’Carroll (Metro 6R4) 17.14.6

8th (10) Ray Brammer/Damien Fleming (Impreza WRC) 17.16.1

9th (12) John McKeown/Tommy Speers (Escort WRC) 17.29.1

10th (11) Alan Carmichael/Neil Doherty (Impreza WRC) 17.42.7

Class winners: CL1 Andrew Mullan/Elaine Doherty (Lancer): CL2A Ronan Lynn/Niall McKeegan (Civic): CL2B Martin & Ben Teggart (Escort): CL4 Garry Jennings/Kerry McCarter (Impreza 555): CL5 Kris Meeke/Gerry McVeigh (Mini WRC): CL6 Gary Owens/Denver Rafferty (Escort): CL7 Jimmy McRae/Eamonn McGarrity (Escort).